The Future of Human Rights: Restoring America's Leadership


Publication Date: August 2008

Publisher: Better World Campaign

Author(s): William F. Schulz

Research Area: Human rights

Keywords: International treaties; Human rights; Presidential transition

Type: Report

Coverage: United States


By definition, human rights only gain meaning if they can claim a global imprimatur. They are, after all, universal human rights, not particular to any one country alone.

They "become" rights only because a significant number of countries have recognized them as such. This means that any nation that would understand itself to be a nation that respects and promotes human rights must ipso facto be a nationthat recognizes the authority of the international community when it comes to human rights or else it faces a contradiction.

The United States has been living in contradiction for more than fifty years; the last seven have merely made that contradiction starker. On the one hand, the U.S. has with some good reason prided itself on being a champion of human rights around the world; on the other, it has regularly balked at the authority of the international community upon which those rights are based, especially when it comes to its own practices.